- Camus at Combat: Writing 1944-1947
This volume seeks to provide a contemporary audience with the journalism of Albert Camus when he served as one of the lead editorialists for the French resistance journal Combat, from before Liberation through to the mass resignation of the editorial staff in June 1947. Collected by the late Camus scholar Jacqueline Lévi-Valensi, the collection contains the best sampling of articles and editorials definitively written by Camus as well as those Lévi-Valensi feels quite confident attributing to him, based upon archival work. Presented chronologically, [End Page 611] the book also has a thematic focus, allowing readers to follow such themes as "History in the Making" (foreign and domestic politics of the era) and "Morality and Politics".
Combat emerged from the experience of war, occupation, collaboration, and resistance with a desire to change France and Europe. Camus was no different in this from his colleagues, emphasizing in particular that the need to remake France came not just from the experience of war but also from frustration with the Third Republic (p. 13). Yet in these writings it is clear that he separated himself from many on the center-left in France by never claiming too much authority on the basis of wartime experience, for "not all resisters were heroes or saints" (p. 134). Camus also saw that the tasks in remaking Europe were often very different from those encountered during the war. As political division returned to France, he regretted the debate that arose between those who favored "the politics of reaction" and those who wanted "the politics of outrageous demands" (p. 105). It is in this sense that the distinctiveness of his position emerges. David Carroll's excellent foreword to the English edition emphasizes that Albert Camus ultimately argued for a definition of democracy as "modest" above all (p. xxii).
The onset of the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union only reinforced these tendencies in Camus. He informed his readers that the call for "revolution" so common after the liberation of Europe from Nazi rule was no longer relevant in an emerging bipolar world. Rather, he urged his readers in November 1946 to see that "revolution" be redefined as "relative utopia" instead of the kind of extreme idealism that could spark a catastrophic war between the ideologies (p. 266). He thus pushed for "international democracy" where the rule of law governed nations as well as local communities (p. 268).
The linkages that Camus made between domestic and international politics in the years following the Second World War, and his argument that both required a practical and modest approach to the needed "revolution," are of obvious relevance to contemporary readers, as Carroll makes clear (p. xxii). Yet they also are of value for students of the era, for in addressing domestic reconstruction, justice, international law, the Cold War, and issues related to colonialism, Albert Camus was a unique voice in relating current events to the larger need for morality in politics, which he defined for himself as the decision "to wager everything on the belief that in the end words will prove stronger than bullets" (p. 276).